Last night I was turning the digital television channels and I stumble on one of the countless tributes to Rambo. Yes, Rambo. In my opinion, Americans do not have a Giuseppe Garibaldi, the first that comes in my mind, a Simon Bolivar, another name, true and deep myths. I believe their founding myth is more of the army collective concept and its military power. Americans have Rambo (John Wayne could enter with the number 13 jersey), a cinematic hero, and perhaps, if interviewed, they are convinced that it is one of their founding myths for real.
They are not crazy, they are not stupid, going back to the concept of heroism linked to their military strength and power, that’s ok. Their story tells this. In many other cases and in many other nations, as I said, there are great heroes that every nation praises, capable of gathering a people around them. Then, there are nations, which, all obedience and self-denial, silently give us the result of their “social heroism”. With these characters, for example, we explain how in times of peace some nations have been able to have superior quality and economic results. Japan, for example.
Do not forget its economic dimension, which is extraordinary if we consider some circumstances: isolation and poverty of energy resources. For many, their economic parable from after the end of the war until today may seem extraordinary, with unattainable peaks at the turn of the 90s and 2000s. But in my opinion, it’s not like this. I explain myself. I am not a great specialist of Japanese culture. Few things: Buddhism as a philosophy / religion at the base of their inner experience. Yukio Mishima, youthful reading, that I approached when I needed large doses of intellectual self-denial and nationalism. In his booklet, without going too far into the folds of this character, the ritual suicide, seppuku, of the samurai, of tradition, let’s say in protest, to turn the spotlight on the need to give back the sense of its tradition to Japan. I know the Kamikaze: the suicide pilots attacks, when the whole war was almost lost, they launched themselves on the ships trying to destroy them.
As you can see nothing to do with Rambo, we are talking about character traits that may not be shared, but true. The Japanese people draw on these characteristics to go so far after the war.
Finishing with my knowledge of Japan, I will tell you the most singular story that Japan can show off to the world, to define the Japanese DNA: Hiroo Onoda. Who is he? You talk about Garibaldi, mention Bolivar, the Kamikaze, Rambo. And now? Well, I have known this story forever. Every time I find it again, I melt, in front of this little story and this little man. This story tells us how, having received an assignment, self-denial paints the trajectory.
On January 16th 2014 he died at the age of 91. We talk about a lieutenant of the Japanese army and his war lasted 29 years. But how? The war began in 1940 and ended in 1945! So? He received the order of despair, shortly before the end of the war: lost for the Japanese, but lost for lost, the order was to sell their lives dearly, conducting guerrilla actions. Hidden in the Philippines on the Lubang Island, he obeyed orders for 29 years, until 1974. Cut off from communications, along with three fellow soldiers, having no contrary order, not believing the words of his Emperor he heard on the radio ordering to endure the unbearable, in 1945 he began his war, in other words, obedience. Guerrilla actions, attacks on villages, even the path of leaflets telling the end of the war was attempted. Onoda thinks it is a trick, does not care and goes on. Even when his fellow soldiers are killed. But Japan, with a renewed international report card, had to put an end to these stumbling blocks to reappear with the image of friend of the West.
The only one who had given him the order could put an end to the adventure, and so it was. His old senior officer went to get him: he found a ghost, animalized, the same uniform of 1945. But I imagine him, with the same proud look in the eyes of 1945, when heroes are all young and beautiful as Guccini said. He kissed the flag and surrendered, with the complete forgiveness from the Filipino authorities for the trail of deaths that Onoda was leaving behind him. It is not a movie; it’s the true story of Lieutenant Hiroo. Do not condemn him, do not judge him badly, if you cannot or do not want to consider him as a hero. Just consider him as a ordinary obedience experiment. What is this?